Svengali Design’s Anselm Tabansi the brains behind Nigeria’s boutique hotel boom talks exclusively to Essential interiors about the hospitality industry, his inspiration, and his latest hotel.
What is the idea behind Fahrenheit hospitality?
Well, I took a cursory look at the hospitality space in Nigeria and realized that nobody was providing what I will refer to as design hotel or boutique hotel. Hoteliers were basically delivering a sleeping space for customers without the essential ingredient; customer experience.
I have been designing and outfitting hotels for customers for well over 20 years but none of the products we have delivered were satisfactory to me, owing to constraints either from the budgetary constraint or from customer expectations.
It was always frustrating for me as a designer because I felt that I could offer more creative works if I were allowed creative license, but that was not to be.
As a result of my love for the industry I decided to come up with my own unique product that would reflect my sense of taste and style.
The first product Maison Fahrenheit opened to critical acclaim, and before skeptics could say it was a fluke, we followed up with Fahrenheit Loft which is uniquely different but still captures the narrative. My model is to organically grow the first truly Nigerian Made hospitality management company and to then take it global.
Tell us about the construction and design of Maison Fahrenheit
Construction was an arduous and challenging task, bear in mind that it was a reconstruction and not a new build. I inherited a dilapidated block of flats and my task was to reconstruct it into a 30 bed signature boutique hotel.
It started with the design, I assembled my in-house design team at Svengali Designs ( a sister company to Fahrenheit) and we got to work. We relied on the power of creativity to deliver what we have today; Maison Fahrenheit.
How does Fahrenheit Loft differ from Maison Fahrenheit?
Whilst both properties truly reflect the look and feel of the Fahrenheit brand they are uniquely different. Whilst Maison is a social hub a very energetic and active space that caters to the upwardly and discerning customers, Loft on the other hand is a more businesslike serene boutique hotel for the city business person to unwind.
Why did you choose Victoria Island as a location?
They say charity begins at home. Victoria Island is a locality that I have plied my business for well over 23 years and so it was natural that I started there to showcase my brand.
Loft is the second hotel under your Fahrenheit hospitality imprint, are there current plans to further expand the brand?
From inception I have always planned to do a roll out of the brand and we intend to be bullish about it.
On the back of the successful launch of Maison and Loft we have been inundated with demands from hoteliers as well as prospective hoteliers for JV Partnerships, branding and management arrangement.
At the moment we have about 6-7 potential properties in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt with more coming in.
What sets Fahrenheit hospitality apart from other brands, why is it unique?
We differentiate ourselves from the maddening crowd by the power of our creativity.
With Fahrenheit being a sister company to Svengali Designs, we have been able to create a value chain in our organization that ensures total creative control over our roll out from design, construction, outfitting, supplies as well as management.
Speaking of Svengali Designs, you are well known for your interior design work, what prompted you to branch into hospitality?
Hospitality was a natural progression, we have been providing designs as well as furnishing services to the industry for a long time. So it wasn’t a hard sell when we decided to join the industry. It was borne out of frustration really. We came in to redefine, deconstruct and raise the bar in the industry.
Why boutique hotels?
I guess as an interior designer I have always been drawn to well conceptualized and well-detailed spaces. I developed a habit of staying only in boutique hotels abroad and I often found myself immersed in those spaces, I drew a lot inspiration from those spaces.
Some of my favourite hotels are SLS Los Angeles and Miami the Mondrian Los Angeles, Delano Miami, Sanderson Hotel, Gansevoort NY, W hotels worldwide.
Where does your inspiration come from?
As I said earlier I drew a lot of in- spiration from my stays in boutique hotels all over the world.
However in particular I have followed the works of two designers, Philipe Starck and Karim Rashid. Their ability to deconstruct a space is phenomenal. They have been responsible for creating the interiors of some of the top boutique hotels all over the world.
What is the future of boutique hotels in Nigeria?
The potential is huge, unfortunately for would be entrants we have the first mover advantage and owing to our aggressive roll out plan it will be hard to catch us!